Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Two guys walk into a bar, brandish guns at a tiny band of survivors of the zombie holocaust and say, “Take us and our group to your zombie-free safe haven or else!” Sheriff says no and shoots the interlopers dead. Only this ain’t no joke; it’s the life-or-undeath stakes of THE WALKING DEAD.
The Old West confrontation in the Deep South marked the climax of the winter premiere of TWD, which picked up exactly where the series left off in November: With Rick (Andrew Lincoln) lowering his weapon after shooting zombie Sophia (Madison Lintz) in the head. While the
dead truly dead were buried and burned (“We bury the ones we love, and burn the rest,” Andrea [Laurie Holden] declared), Hershel (Scott Wilson) high-tailed it to town to drown his sorrows.
Rick and Glenn (Steven Yeun) set off to fetch him, and Glenn confessed his feelings for Maggie (Lauren Cohan)…er, to Rick. Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) also shared some secret feelings — his suspicions about Shane (Jon Bernthal) — with Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies). Beth (Emily Kinney) fell mysteriously ill, so Lori decided that she also just had to go retrieve Hershel the vet, but ended up wrecking the car in a ditch. At the bar in town, Rick and Glenn found Hershel — but so did Dave (Michael Raymond-James, late of TRUE BLOOD) and Scrawny Tony, scouts for another group of survivors. After the new guys make clear their intentions to crash Hershel’s farm, Rick shot them both dead.
For me, the most chilling part of the episode was Carol (Melissa McBride) insisting that they weren’t burying her little Sophia. “She didn’t cry herself to sleep. She didn’t go hungry. She didn’t try to find her way back,” Carol lamented. “Sophia died a long time ago.” It made me think about what a terrible death Sophia suffered, all alone in the woods. She either felt abandoned or was flushed out of her hiding spot by walkers, and surely she didn’t last very long, losing her teddy bear in the river. I guess it was lucky she was just bitten, and not torn apart and eaten. But she was certainly alone and frightened. And then she got lassoed and stuffed in the barn.
The aftermath of Sophia’s
death destruction left everyone – especially leaders Rick and Hershel – questioning just what the hell they’re doing. Hershel realized what a damn fool he’s been, and promptly crawled inside a bottle and gave up. He sensed that Rick felt the same way when he saw Sophia shamble out of the barn.
Rick realized that almost without knowing it he’s stepped up and assumed the mantle of leadership that he resisted for so long. Somebody had to put down the demonized child, and somebody had to go to town and bring back Hershel.
And somebody has to stand for hope. When Hershel moaned about hope (Hershel had hope for the future when Carl was saved, but lost it when he realized that his wife had become a dead thing, and his wait for a cure was hopeless), Rick doubtless heard Lori’s words of hopelessness for their baby ringing in his ears. But Rick has hope for Carl and the new baby on the way — that somehow they can find a safe haven and make a better tomorrow — even if he cannot articulate it.
Speaking of not saying the right thing, Maggie did not deny knowing that Sophia was in the barn. She gave Glenn one of those “How dare you question me!” glares, and he let her off the hook. I think he doesn’t want to know if she knew, because he secretly knows she secretly knew. How likely is it that Otis captured a little girl zombie and forgot to mention it when a group of strangers showed up looking for a missing little girl? Odds are Rick’s group might have left if they could have solved the Sophia problem quickly. Stupid Otis!
And stupid Lori! She somehow managed to hit a single zombie on a deserted stretch of road and wreck the car. Why was she in such a hurry anyway? Methinks I smell an idiot plot. The only good thing about this ridiculous turn of events is that she will almost certainly lose the baby. There’s only so much drama to be wrung from the “Who’s the Daddy?” mystery (which cannot be solved unless the baby is born with washboard abs and a crew-cut), and the-powers-that-be cannot want the group to drag a newborn along as they flee the zombie horde. But surviving this wreck will be Lori’s big problem for now.
And she’s not going to get help from Rick anytime soon. Rick will have to deal with the friends of the men he killed, and from the previews of next week, there will be hell to pay. One might wonder what the difference is between what Rick just did and what Shane did to Otis. Both sacrificed someone else for their own survival, but in Rick’s case I think it was clear he was acting to protect the group. And, face it, Dave did draw on him. And, as an officer of the law, Rick is empowered to use deadly force. In Shane’s case, it appeared more like he was saving himself by hobbling Otis (He didn’t exactly kill Otis in the strictest sense). One could say Shane was acting to save Carl’s life, which is true, but I still wouldn’t equate that with keeping the camp from being invaded and Rick’s friends possibly turned out or killed.
Funny, that’s exactly the kind of decision — exactly the kind of new world status quo — that Shane claimed Rick wasn’t prepared to handle. Well, maybe Rick wasn’t ready for it back then, but clearly he is now. Rick has been born again hard.
And one last thing: I think Beth is on her way to being turned into a zombie. A subtle point that has been forgotten lately is that zombie bites are not the medium of transmission for… zombification. Could the true cause be muting and becoming airborne?